A year ago I was celebrating my 50th Birthday in China
by climbing the Great Wall. I ended almost "dead" of
exhaustion from my 10 mile climb. Yet a few days later i
went to the main art market in Beijing looking for all
things calligraphy. I had seen, and even bought, some
great Chinese watercolor art on fabric, so amongst
interesting oriental papers, I was also looking to buy
some real silk "canvas". I was surprised to discover how
rare it was even in China. Silk for artwork does not
come cheap nor is it easy to find.
At home it took me almost
another year to cut into and try out this scary,
curious, precious material. What you see here is my
first, and so far, my only try with silk. (No worries, I
made an investment, and have yards of it left). The
homework assignment from Reggie was drawn roman caps,
and I decided to combine them with pointed pen. Yes,
believe it or not, I took the needle-like nib straight
to the delicate fabric, and it worked almost like
writing on butter would. Sensitive and smooth. No
spreading, no catching threads on this sharpest of
tools! Then I filled in my romans and the green leafy
decoration with tiny brush and watercolors, all the
while taking advantage of what watercolors can do. As
the matter of fact, the only medium used for this piece
is watercolor. Including copperplate lettering.
As I "finished" the piece, it started to seriously
rebuke me. I want more, it said. You can see through me,
so show something through. Use me! So I cut another
piece of silk, marked the area I wanted to show, and
covered it entirely with broad edge pen romans, still in
watercolor. As my tool was full of ink this time, it
bled a little, and letterforms came out somewhat
distorted, but after all, it was to be a just a
So what you now see is two layers of silk placed on top
of each other, playing with each other. Not much
planning. After completing, I just ironed the two pieces
of fabric to an absolute smooth surface. All crumpling
just disappeared. The Chinese stamp with my name in
Latin and Mandarin alphabet was custom made for me in
Beijing, and gave the final touch.
Some weeks ago, while teaching a pointed pen class
called Seastones at IAMPETH conference in Louisville, I
donated this piece to the organization.
Exactly on my 51st birthday this July, a fellow
calligrapher Jennifer Calvert Cathey from College
Station, Texas generously purchased it at their auction.
This story is over, but not my adventures with silk, nor
with Reggie's homework assignments.